Updated: Dec 8, 2022
Warrior 2 is one of those poses that I've grown to make peace with over the years by doing what I can and getting the most out of it. I remember having a lot of questions about this pose after finishing my teacher training but was too shy to ask since it's considered a basic pose.
'Are the hips supposed to completely face the side?'
'What if I can't do it without my front knee collapsing inwards?'
'Should the tailbone be completely tucked?
If you have similar questions in your head about Warrior II, they might be covered below.
Common Issue 1 & 2: Leaning the Torso Too Far Forward & Forgetting About Back Leg
If you often feel like your front thigh is burning in Warrior 2, there's quite a high chance that you're doing either or both of the above. Leaning too far forward simply places a lot of body weight into that front leg. It is also pretty common to focus on where the drama is in a lot of yoga poses. In Warrior II, the front leg is bent and students often focus so much on it that they lose sight of the back leg.
Figure 1: Leaning Too Far Forward (L), Torso Stacked Above Hips (R)
Solution: Take the torso right above the hips and check that both hip points are at the same level instead of having one lower than the other (notice the lower right hip point in Figure 1). Press strongly through the outer edge of the back foot to distribute the work through both legs. I'd occasionally place my foot parallel to a student's back foot and get them to press into mine to feel what it's like to have the back leg engaged.
Common Issue 3: Collapsing the Front Knee Inwards
This can happen for a couple of reasons - weak outer hips, tightness around the hip joint, hard limitations from skeletal structure. It also usually happens when students try to force their hips to 'square' to the long side of the mat (which also leads to the next issue below). It's fine when it works, but when it doesn't, it can feel pretty uncomfortable around the front inner knee and ankle.
Figure 2: Collapsing into the Front Knee (L), Front Knee and Toes Tracking Forward (R)
Solution: Prioritize the front knee and toes tracking forward. Turn the hips to face the long side of the mat only to what the body allows without the front knee starting to cave in. Continue to turn the chest to face the long side of the mat. Slightly engage the outer hips of that bent front leg, which will help to externally rotate the front thigh bone.
Common Issue 4: Overarching at the Lower Back
This usually happens because the spine is compensating for tightness around the hip when that front leg needs to bend and turn out, sometimes causing a pinching sensation around the lower back. It's also one of the things that I used to do a lot without realizing when I first started practising because I was often told to keep the front leg bent 90 degrees when I didn't actually have the hip mobility and skeletal structure to do so.
Figure 3: Overarching at the Lower Back (L), Turning on the Core (R)
Solution: One quick fix is to shorten the stance and see if it helps to keep the body a little more lifted when there's less demand on the front hip. Also, think of lifting the frontal hip points a little while allowing the tailbone to point towards the ground. A simple way is to use 2 fingers to guide the front of both hip points up, while slightly engaging the front of the core together with the glutes. This subtle connection to the middle part of the torso often helps to have a more 'lifted' Warrior 2.
As usual, experiment to see if these help you or your students. I hope you'll find more ease and stability in your Warrior 2.
For those who prefer a video format, here's a short summary video: